Is Matt Gaetz a hero or a villain?
The camera-loving Republican from Florida who threatened to shut down the government and who masterminded the ousting of Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday has made more than a few enemies in Congress.
He doesn’t care; he represents a district in Florida that hasn’t gone Democrat in decades and that went for former President Trump in 2020 by 68% to 29%. That means that in 2018, for instance, election gurus gave him 99% odds of being re-elected, even though his approval rating was a dismal 20% – worse than Joe Biden.
Consequently, Gaetz has little sympathy for centrist colleagues in toss-up districts who must win over independent voters who are likely appalled by the chaos in the GOP caucus. He apparently has little commitment to his party or to maintaining the Republican majority in the House. To those of us who view Joe Biden’s agenda as dangerous for our country, Gaetz’ unseating of Speaker McCarthy, which will stoke the Democrat narrative that the GOP is incapable of governing and give more power to House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and his colleagues, is reckless and selfish. It is said his attention-getting antics are fed by his desire to be a TV host; if the shoe fits…
What is McCarthy’s crime in the view of Gaetz and his fellow GOP bomb-throwers? Gathering Democrat votes to pass a bill keeping the federal government open. The irony, of course, is that Gaetz himself relied on Democrats to help him topple McCarthy.
Gaetz’ most enduring offense, however, is to tag fiscal conservatism as the purview of people President Biden would happily call “MAGA extremists.” He and a few House colleagues have attacked Congress’ enthusiasm for kicking the fiscal can down the road, and have made our excessive federal spending the focal point of their insurrection. Those complaints are justified; squabbling over our deficits is not crazy.
The GOP needs to own this fight, but they have only reluctantly stepped up. When Republicans in Congress allowed the bloated $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill to pass last December – even after the GOP had won a majority in the House – they opened the door to Gaetz and gave Biden a hall pass.
In August, Fitch, the credit rating agency, downgraded U.S. Treasury bonds, explaining that the downgrade “reflects the expected fiscal deterioration over the next three years, [and] a high and growing general government debt burden…” Was anyone listening?
Joe Biden and his pals in the liberal media apparently weren’t listening. Given that voters blame the president’s record-level budgets for tipping off the worst inflation in 40 years, you might think Biden would at least pay lip service to reining in federal outflows.
He won’t have it. Why? Because the trillions flowing from the federal government buy votes. Those bills that Biden has signed that fork over hundreds of billions of dollars for windmills and EVs guarantee votes from the climate lobby. The billions funding infrastructure projects shore up support with construction unions and the endless flow of money directed to public education strengthens Biden’s alliance with teachers’ unions.
It’s soft corruption, and the bigger the government’s slice of the pie, the more opportunity for payoffs. When longtime Democrat activist John Podesta is charged with handing out $369 billion in “green” grants and tax credits – which will likely flow to friendly groups in toss-up districts – authorized by the Inflation Reduction Act, you get the picture.
Today, the federal and local government’s share of our economy has ballooned to nearly 45%; that’s where we were during World War II. Understand – that means of every dollar spent in the United States this year, nearly half will be spent by the government.
Do you think the government spends money more wisely than you do? Do the postal service or the IRS strike you as models of efficiency? Of course not. As the government’s footprint grows, our economy becomes less productive, less efficient and our country more sluggish. That is a fact.
Biden has taken to bragging that he cut the federal deficit by $1 trillion. That is, like nearly all of Biden’s claims, simply untrue. Here’s what is true: the federal deficit for the fiscal year that just ended will be close to $2 trillion – nearly twice the level of last year – and close to 6% of GDP, an all-time high outside of wars or crises.
Folks, we are not at war and the president claims we are enjoying a terrific economy. So why should our deficit spending be at record levels?
Does it matter? For starters, our country continues to pile up debt. Now that interest rates have jumped higher, the cost of servicing our gigantic debt has skyrocketed and will be the fastest-growing part of the federal budget over the next several years. Imagine: by 2030, the government will be paying more than $1 trillion every year in interest costs alone.
That means money that could have gone toward defending our border or on health care will instead go to paying interest on our debt. As the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget reports, “the federal government already spends more on interest than on children… By 2027, during the next presidential term, interest spending will exceed federal defense spending.”
This is not sustainable, and reasonable people on both sides of the aisle know it. That’s why a large number of legislators, including the Problem Solvers Caucus in the House and a bipartisan majority in the Senate, have proposed a fiscal commission, aimed at solving our long-term spending problem.
Gaetz could have been a hero here. Instead of declaring war on other Republicans, Gaetz et al. should have declared war on costly deficits and done the hard work of passing spending bills to bring them down.
Who knows? He might have even scored a TV anchor job in the process.